What’s it all about?
It’s easier than ever to look inside our genes, and research is advancing at an astounding rate. And not only can we ‘read’ our genes but scientists have been figuring out ways to ‘write’ them as well.
Newspaper headlines tell us about the ‘breast cancer’ gene, or the ‘warrior’ gene or even the so-called ‘infidelity’ gene. What does it mean to be aware of our genetic makeup in the 21st century and who should have the right to access that data?
What will we cover?
We’ll start with a brief overview of cells, DNA and genes. This’ll include a fun experiment: extracting DNA from strawberries using nothing but household ingredients.
Following this we’ll turn back to human genetics and focus on the ethical and societal implications that this new information has. For example, if you kill someone but have a genetic variation that may predispose you to violence, should you get a reduced sentence? (An Italian court thought so). Should you be informed of your risk of developing a disease when’s there’s nothing you can do to prevent it? (Some experts think so) Should your health insurance company be allowed to alter your premiums based on your genetic risk of disease? (Insurers certainly think so).
As the law struggles to keep up with science, these are important questions that will need answers.
Who will be teaching?
Matthew Snelson is a self-confessed science junkie. With a background in nutrition, he worked for several years as a clinical dietitian in Perth before coming across to Melbourne to pursue further studies in the area of genetics. He’s currently completing a Masters in Biotechnology, with plans to continue to a PhD next year. He feels strongly about science education and communication, and wants to help make science accessible and understandable to everyone. When he’s not making science he enjoys bush walking, playing guitar and writing blurbs about himself in the third person.